Let me start off by saying how much I absolutely love the Metroid series. The first time I ever played Metroid on the Nintendo Entertainment System was at my cousin's house. We would spend all day just trying to map out the levels and make our way through the game. Where there are good times, there will be good memories. To this day, the series is still one of my favorites, and I always look forward to any news I can find on what's next for Metroid. However, until recently, I had never even played nor owned a copy of Metroid II: Return of Samus.
Once again, Metroid puts you in the shoes of Samus Aran, a female bounty hunter who was raised by a group of aliens called the Chozo. As Samus, you are sent to the planet SR-388 to hopefully rid the universe of a dangerous organism called "metroid." Her armor is a special suit that gives the ability to fire all kinds of weapons, including bombs, missles and her standard blaster. It also allows Samus to compact her body enough to literally roll into a ball and squeeze through spaces she wouldn't normally be able to enter.
Gameplay in this particular game is a bit different than the first, mainly due to how progression is achieved. In the original Metroid, there were certain power-ups you had to find in order to progress, whereas this sequel involves finding and defeating different kinds of metroids. There are four types of metroids (Alpha, Beta, Zeta and Omega), so each encounter can be pretty different. Samus will discover that the enemies become progressively harder to kill, requiring more missiles each time.
Because it takes so many missiles to kill each Metroid (as well as the final boss), Metroid II allows players to explore the terrain and upgrade both their energy and weapon capacity. To aid in finding these add-ons, there are multiple suit and weapon upgrades you must find. The ice beam and wave beam make a return, with the plasma and spazer beams entering the series for the first time. The spazer separates into three beams to cover a wide area. On the other hand, the Plasma beam is more powerful, but is basically just a laser with a short coverage area. Samus can only use one of these weapons at a time, but can return to a pick up point to grab them again.
Both the spider ball and the spring ball also make their first appearance in this sequel. The spider ball gives Samus the ability to climb walls, while the spring ball gives her the ability to jump; both while in ball form. Game controls feel tight and are simple enough to learn within the first few minutes of having any new power-up. Samus is able to crouch as well, which adds a new dynamic to fighting enemies lower to the ground. Because this is a mobile title, there are also save points spread around the world to make sure no progress is lost.
Going back and playing this game, I realize how far the series (and gaming in general) has come since its release in 1991. Being the first time playing it, I also can appreciate how well it holds up today. Things that have become series staples were first introduced in this Game Boy sequel. The look of Samus' suit first started off here, as well as some of the exploration elements.
One of the few drawbacks to Metroid II is how dark this game can be. Nintendo did a great job of contrasting the ground to the black background, but there are times when playing on a Game Boy can be a bit irritating if you don't have the right lighting. Another complaint is the lack of a map. Gamers have been spoiled since the days of Metroid II; we've had maps and general hints that make navigation painless. Is this game unplayable without a map? Absolutely not. Even the Metroid games with maps have secret areas not shown. The gameplay alone makes up for some of the imperfections.
If you're having a hard time dealing with the fact that no new Metroid game has been announced in years, go back and give Metroid II: Return of Samus another look. It's readily available online at many retailers, and even on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console. My only recommendation would be to have a map handy.